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Sounds

SOUNDS Betty Carter’s 25-minute extravaganza “Sounds” is possibly the jazz vocal apogee. Sarah Vaughan is more inventive and harmonically sophisticated, Ella is more agile, Billie Holiday is more soulful, but nobody is more adventurous or swinging than Betty Carter. The

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The Lost World of the Record Store

The Lost World of the Record Store Brendan Toller’s documentary I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store (2008) tells the story of the demise of the independent record store, though it might just

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The New Classicism

The New Classicism I saw the Pittsburgh Symphony at UNC-Chapel Hill last year. The concert opened with some grant-swathed contemporary piece. It sounded like feeble Mingus. It dawned on me as my mind absently drifted from the stage that classical

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Fotheringay

Fotheringay The motte and site of Fotheringhay Castle seen from across the River Nene I’ve been working through the four discs of The Collected Fotheringay, which memorializes Sandy Denny’s post-Fairport Convention outfit, briefly active circa 1970. I well remember buying

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Against the Great American Songbook

Against the Great American Songbook I’ve been listening to Ella in Rome (1958), a fortieth birthday concert that captures Ella’s artistic peak. Ella and her musicians fly through the music with dizzying virtuosity, but I am constantly impatient with her

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God’s Empty Chair

God’s Empty Chair On the Road continues to impresses me, as it has always done. Notwithstanding Truman Capote’s famous quip—“That’s not writing, that’s typing”—it bears up not just as a cultural manifesto but as literature in the tradition of Thomas

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Meeting of the Spirits

Meeting of the Spirits   In Greek mythology, the distinction between heroes and gods is rather thin; so too in the guitar world. The film Meeting of the Spirits makes the point. It features Larry Coryell, Paco De Lucia, and

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Music for Airports

Music for Airports For several years I’ve been teaching film and science-fiction and feeling vaguely guilty about abandoning “real” literature. I realize that my standard explanation—that I’m exploiting rare exceptions to the rule of student literary disinterest—are false, and that

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Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit Netflix is now streaming an informative if straightforward documentary of the life of Nina Simone called What Happened, Miss Simone? (an unfortunate borrowing from a Maya Angelou poem). The documentary depicts Simone as the rare artist not in

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The Bounty of Sweden

The Bounty of Sweden   Ever since Christopher Ricks published Dylan’s Vision of Sin (2004)—this from the famed critic of Keats and Tennyson—I knew the Nobel was in the works. In one of world culture’s more arch practical jokes, Dylan

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Elegy in Red and Gold

Elegy in Red and Gold  The D.C.-area chanteuse Eva Cassidy (1963–1996) died young of cancer, so we can enjoy her work only elegiacally and with the kind of autumnal wistfulness with which we listen to Sandy Denny, a similar and

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